You’re invited to the ball! Pacific Northwest Black Pride is hosting a smorgasbord of events for QTPOC and allies. And to kick things off right, Lestat Versace has organized the Return of the Wiz ball, a fundraiser and revitalized cultural phenomenon that is sure to dazzle. Here’s our interview with Lestat as he spilled the tea .
Ryan: Thank you so much for joining me. Tell me about this upcoming vogue ball that you are spearheading.
Lestat: This vogue ball is to bring the ballroom scene to Seattle. When I was back home in Atlanta, walking the ball was just the thing to do. You come put your name in the hat to walk different categories, whether it be Butch Queen Vogue Femme, Butch Queen Runway, Femme Queen Face—that was really your platform to make a name for yourself. And I just feel that Seattle is a place that needs something like that for the community. They don’t do any balls or get together with mini balls, so I thought I would just bring that to Seattle and maybe bring out somebody else’s talent and bring out the love.
Ryan: And for folks who haven’t seen (the film) Paris is Burning, or haven’t been watching (the television series) Pose religiously, can you describe what ballroom culture is all about?
Lestat: So, the ballroom culture starts off with a Mother and a Father. The Mother and Father are going to be the head of the house. The Mother is usually the person who gets everyone ready for the balls, members of the house are just referred to as the kids. There are sons, there are daughters… it’s just like a big old family. It’s like a gay street gang, but the way we fight is to do our thing on the dance floor. We vogue. We walk the runway. That’s how we battle. That’s basically what the ballroom and the house is, to try to guide the newer kids in the right direction. Maybe you have talent in dance, so maybe you can vogue. Maybe you have talent in sewing, maybe you could make an ovah outfit and walk Labels. Let your creativity come out.
Ryan: And why is this important for LGBTQ culture in general?
Lestat: When I came out back in Atlanta Georgia, my parents were just like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it.” I left home when I was 17. My gay Mother and my gay Father took me in and showed me the ropes of this whole gay lifestyle. And they introduced me to the ballroom scene. It was something where at any age, you can go and just have fun. You go and walk your category with all these other people, and you see people who are just like you making a name for themselves. You’ve got Sha Sha Chanel—she’s one of the big girls in the scene. You can make a name for yourself by just being you.
When you do the ballroom scene, you are bringing wellness to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that’s plaguing our community. Whether it be black, Latino, or any person of color, or anyone that’s gay.
Ryan: Tell me about your House.
Lestat: My House of Versace was started in Atlanta by Makuta Chanel Versace. He actually is not into the ballroom scene anymore and that’s why the name of Versace isn’t really out there. But it’s new to the scene here in Seattle. So I was like, “Maybe just go ahead and bring the name of Versace and do it as me.” We haven’t had a brand in years—this is my comeback. I’m trying to rebuild the house.
Ryan: Is that part of this event? The debut for the House of Versace?
Lestat: Yes, the debut for Versace. And to maybe have some other Mothers and Fathers spring up now with this ball. And that’s going to bring the competition.
Ryan: You’re a pioneer, bringing this to the Northwest!
Lestat: Indeed. [laughs]
Ryan: What do you seek in a competitor house? What would it take to challenge the House of Versace?
Lestat: It’s about how you bring it at every function. Not every function are you going to be right. Not every function will you have everything together. It’s what you do for the next function that counts, because this function, you might get chopped, you don’t win the category. But the spirit of competition is always trying and never giving up.
Ryan: Does ballroom culture feel like a way to give the LGBTQ community a way to uplift ourselves in life?
Lestat: Yes, definitely. Because look at it. If you are a person that vogues, you’re voguing, you go in to get your scores in front of the panel, you get your tens. You get your tens means that they see your vogue and they see potential in you. You get to go onto the next round. And then when you get to battle, your voguing technique is what makes you unique. Laomi Mizrahi is known as the amazon of vogue and the Wonder Woman, because she does the most daring dips and spins. She’s just ovah, and when you see her, it’s so amazing. Just like Pose. I know it’s a TV show, but it’s actually somebody’s real life. A lot of those people you see on there are actually connected to the real scene, like Jack Mizrahi. Jack is one of the best commentators in the scene. From the time I’ve known him until now, Jack has always been in the ballroom scene. It’s just about making a name for yourself.
Ryan: And it sounds like we’ll get a taste of this at your event. What can we expect from it?
Lestat: So, the theme is “The Return of the Wiz.” The old school one with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. And what were they doing? Going to the Emerald City. And what is Seattle known for? The Emerald City.
Ryan: Do you already have folks lined up to vogue and compete on the runway or are you looking for people to join?
Lestat: The thing about ballroom is that nobody signs up. When the category is called, you come out to walk your category. You get your tens or you get your chop. The next person comes out and walks the same category. You got enough people to battle, they battle for a trophy at the end.
Ryan: So all of Seattle can potentially come out and compete.
Lestat: All of them. I have a category called Non-Binary Face, as Miss One. And all the munchkins were done up in graffiti. So that category is to bring it as Miss One in evening wear, male or female, and graffiti must be included with numbers.
Ryan: What other categories are you having people do?
Lestat: Butch Queen Up In Drag, Dorothy. Dorothy is going to be in all silver—don’t’ forget your silver pumps and accessories. Because in The Wiz, Dorothy is not wearing red. She’s wearing silver. And the bad witch in The Wiz was Evilene. Don’t nobody bring me bad news, but bring me all your jewels. Bring me your red cocktail dress dripping in jewels, and your red pumps.
Ryan: So we can get into this, enjoy this show, participate, and potentially join the House of Versace if we are chosen by Father Lestat Versace?
Lestat: That’s right!
Ryan: Is this going to be a fundraiser?
Lestat: It’s a $5 charge at the door and that is going to POCAAN.
Ryan: Any other tips or advice you can give to folks who are coming to strut their stuff?
Lestat: Just bring it. Read the categories, look at The Wiz, and study it.
You heard it, kids. If you want to compete, do your research and come prepared. But all are welcome, even spectators. Applaud your community, donate to charity, and witness what could be the rise of Seattle’s premier ballroom scene! Join us at R Place this Sunday, August 19th, at 8pm.